Living up to the Legend
The Japanese anime series “Initial D” probably helped kick-start its revival and gain a legendary status by portraying it as a “hero car.” It was the protagonist’s weapon of choice for canyon carving, drifting, and racing down the mountains of Japan.
The AE86 wasn't really known for its power, but rather for its near-perfect balance that made it easy to control when driving on the limit. It had no driver aids such as traction control, nor did it have a fly-by-wire accelerator, but boy did it handle well. At every corner, the AE86 relied solely on mechanical grip to keep itself on the road, be it dirt, gravel, or asphalt.
The First Ride
While everyone is still drooling to get their hands on one, we were lucky enough to get invited by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) to join their test drive at the Subic International Airport. Prepared by DMF Drift, they turned the runway into a dragstrip and an autocross track.
Out of the box, the new Toyota 86 handles very well on the tarmac. Steering feels light, yet it still gives the driver proper feedback, while the Limited Slip Differential (LSD) has a lot of bite. Its near-perfectly balanced 53/47 weight ratio will calmly let you know when the tail is on its way out. But if you don't catch it in time, the traction control will straighten the car out and keep you from having an intimate relationship with the wall or gravel.
After a quick spin, I can say that the new Toyota 86 is a great track car. And if you decide to get serious, I'm pretty sure that it would make a great race car as well. Dare I say that the 86 is at par or even a bit better than the AE86?
The four-cylinder 2.0 liter boxer engine is designed by Subaru. It even says so on the engine cover. The thing may only have 200 horses, but because it's such a joy to drive, you probably won't even notice. The boxer engine configuration also allows the 86 to have a streamlined bonnet and better balance due to its lower center of gravity.
The Japanese engineers also took the time to arrange the engine bay in such as way that servicing it will be a breeze. In fact, the oil filter, ECU, and secondary clutch cylinders are all cleverly positioned, so you don’t have to go under the car to access them.
King of the Streets
The 86 may be a bit better on track than its predecessor, but what the AE86 lacks on track, it makes up for in the streets. Part of the old AE86’s charm was that it was a very versatile car. It was menacing on track and yet, it can be a normal daily drive with comfortable seats for four people.
On the other hand, the new 86 might be a killer on track and very comfortable to drive on the road, but I think scales are tipped towards performance, styling, and being a true sports car. At first glance, the backseats are almost impossible to get in to and the trunk isn't so spacious. But you do have to realize that the 86 is a pure-bred sports car, and sports cars don't need big trunk spaces nor back seats. Surprisingly, it also rides very well on the streets. The 86's suspension has been tuned to strike a balance of firmness on track and comfort on street.
Good looks, a great engine, and sharp handling are what make the new Toyota 86 a legend in the making. On top of that, a P1,550,000 price tag for the 2.0L MT and P1,650,000 for the AT version is a big plus. But the question is, will it really become a legend like the AE86? Well, you'll have to ask me again in 20 years. For now, all I can say is that the 86 has a good shot at it.